The weather is cold and you’ll likely run into snow, but if you’re prepared and have packed appropriately, you can still enjoy city walking and lots of outdoor activities.
In fact, just before and just after Christmas offers visitors some of the best opportunities for airfare and hotel bargains (except for new years eve). Even if December wasn’t really on your radar as a month to visit, give it some consideration.
Weather in Iceland in December
Just like everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, the shortest day of the year is in December. At the beginning of December, the length of day is 5 hours. So from December 1st to the Winter solstice, almost an entire hour of daylight is lost. As for the temperatures, you can expect average low to be approximately -2 degrees Celsius (28 F) and the average high temperatures to be 4 degrees Celsius (39 F) – probably not as cold as you thought. You will most likely experience snowfall, rain and/or sleet in between.
Northern lights in Iceland in December
With the right conditions, you’re highly likely to see the Northern Lights in December. Having the shortest daylight of all months, chances are you get to view the unearthly colors and sounds in the night sky above the snowy Arctic wilderness. Many local tour operators offer a variety of northern lights tours with pick-up and drop-off in Reykjavik.
Reykjavik in December
Reykjavik has plenty to offer in December. For decades the lighting of the Oslo Christmas tree has marked the beginning of the city‘s Christmas preparations. It has its place in the hearts of locals, who gather each year to enjoy both the spirit of Christmas and each others company. This year’s event will take place on Sunday, 3 December between 15:30 and 17:00 at Austurvöllur. Don‘t be surprised if few Yule Lads will show up bearing gifts and joyful spirits.
Each year at Ingolfstorg square, in the heart of the city, there is an ice skating rink open to the public. Kiosks will surround the rink selling food, drinks and other goods which guests can enjoy while getting into the Christmas spirit.
Many restaurants are closed during the holidays, especially the 24th and the 25th of December. We therefore advise you to plan ahead to make sure you won‘t be hungry come Christmas day. You can find more details regarding opening hours here.
All local swimming pools are open in December which gives you the perfect opportunity to experience the geothermal energy in Reykjavik, like a local.
The nightlife scene of Reykjavik is pretty active in December. At the beginning of the month many students have their final exams so the first weekend might be quitter than usual, but as soon as the semester is finished, which is usually around the 7-8th of December, all hell breaks loose! Don’t expect any activities either on the 24th and 25th of December, but on the other hand, if you dare to visit the downtown area on New Year’s Eve, you will experience downtown Reykjavik in all its glory!
Shopping in Iceland in December
December 25 is a statutory holiday across Iceland so expect most things to be closed. On the 24th of December, most stores close around noon, although few supermarkets remain open until 6pm. Reykjavík’s shopping streets Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur are filled with upscale design houses, featuring the latest in world fashion, mixed with small hole-in-the-wall stores featuring local designers. Along the way you will also find a curious mix of souvenir shops, jewelry designers, and outdoor clothing stores. Shopping malls Kringlan and Smáralind are also good bets, offering up to 150 stores under one roof.
Museums in Iceland in December
Museums are open to the public all year around but please note that the opening hours may vary and some museums that are located in the countryside might have limited opening hours. During the holidays, all museums are closed. If you are wondering which museums to explore, we recommend the National Museum of Iceland, Reykjavik Art Museum, Árbæjarsafn and Whales of Iceland.
Tours in Iceland in December
There are hundreds of tours that you can enjoy in December in Iceland. The classic tours, such as the Golden Circle and the northern lights are up for grabs. You could also join an expedition to explore the south coast & go Glacier Hiking. Visit amazing sights such as Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss, Dyrhólaey, Black Sand Beach – Reynisfjara and Sólheimajökull. An adventure with endless possibilities and envy-worthy photo-ops. From the magnificent Sólheimajökull Glacier, the photographer magnet Seljalandsfoss waterfall, to the mighty waves of the Atlantic Oceans at the Reynisfjara black sand beach.
You might want to take on a journey into a glacier, by booking this tour. You will get the opportunity of a life time to enjoy one of the world’s greatest wilderness; Iceland’s second largest glacier – from the inside. You’ll ride in specially modified glacier vehicles on the glacier as well, to further explore the glacier environment.
A number of tour companies offer snowmobile tours, glacier hiking and other adventurous activities. Feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further guidance.
Sightseeing in Iceland in December
If you are thinking about renting a car and driving into the countryside, there are many great spots to discover. The popular Golden Circle, Iceland’s South Coast all the way to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and the Reykjanes peninsula are all mostly accessible. Just make sure that the car you will be driving is equipped with all the necessary gear.
Driving into the highlands is not possible unless you join a truck guided expedition winter tour, for example to Landmannalaugar.
The ring road is in most cases fully accessible. For more information regarding roads and road safety, please visit this site.